bitter waters

As leaders, we may droop at times with dampened spirits when downpours of discouraging events fall uninvited into our best efforts to bless and be a blessing.

We can weather the slight discomfort of relatively low key opposition and healthy conflict through open and prayerful communication with conciliatory tones rooted in Christ. We learn to splash in puddles of wide diversity with joy as we discover from one another alternative ways of being together in good faith, establishing collective priorities with patience and understanding, accepting differences in gifts and roles with grace and humility.

But it is more than likely we will become bogged down when called to lead in the midst of torrential challenges of ill founded personal attack.  We want Christ to be seen in all we do, but when double standards rain down unjustly, or troubled manners drizzle with destructive disrespect days and weeks and months on end, we may wonder if we will survive the pools of painful offence which accumulate around our ankles of vulnerability. We may wonder how to walk with heads held high not staring at the swirling mess around us beckoning us to fall in a sense of cold humiliation or failure.

Should the waters of discontent rise above the marks of a typical spring melt of contained disagreement into a flood zone of blatant disregard for decency with deceptive tactics to do us in and win our departure at all costs, we may stoop lower still beneath the weight of trauma to the very soul of who we are as those called to serve in love, to seek peace, to turn the other cheek in his name.   It may feel as though we will go under.

“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43: 1-2)

Faithful servant, beloved of the Lord, remember he is near to guide you through.

“What shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, not height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 31-39)

If the path of integrity in your gospel call to increase the influence of God’s kingdom of love has led you to confront unholy strongholds disclosed within the church and bear this wrath, or to wade through stands of good and evil submerged in sufficient conflict as to make forward movement impossible, you will know the trepidation of stepping out where you can’t see the bottom line, where algae covered stones of ill intentioned inferences wait to trip you up, where dead leaves of a time long past are strewn across the conversations of a future hope in power ploys meant to destroy.

No, there’s nothing uplifting about this.  And no, no one really wants to talk about it.

But if you are covered in the grunge of mudslinging untruth, you will want to know someone will break ranks and thank you for your courage to withstand the lunging lions trusting God still walks with you in darkened dens; for your faith to prevail against the onslaught, Spirit filled and taught by grace to remain in the light and truth of his love as your spirit bends in deeper death to self to rise again renewed, baptized in his suffering.

Murky waters of hidden malice mark our spirits with discouragement and isolation, disbelief and violation.  But he is never far.  We may try to hide these streaky scars under the bulky outerwear of defense mechanisms and denial, but we know they are there, and so does he.   Forsaken, he remains.

Come be washed in his love … washed in his love … washed in his love again.

Standing in swampy waters of spiritual assault leaves a marshy stench of bitterness in our souls the longer we allow this stagnant wasteland to settle in without creating channels of forgiveness to drain it away putting ego defence in its place.

Come be washed in his love … washed in his love … washed in his love again.

We catch a whiff of it when we hear ourselves or others recounting sulphuric stories of bullying and abuse, episodic memories of daggers and spears sending waves of painful associations crashing through usual composure.

Come stand under his fountains of kind mercy.   His holy righteous love will cause the bitter waters to recede and be made sweet in deeper fellowship with Christ.

‘The LORD bless you and keep you.  The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6: 24)

If you or someone else you know is mired in a flood of difficulties, might I suggest the following documentary film released by US Films, 2012.  Full of candour, it speaks to clergy and congregations dealing with deep wounding and brings greater understanding to this widespread but little talked about reality.



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